The evolution of Old and Middle English texts: linguistic form and practices of literacy

Smith, J. (2016) The evolution of Old and Middle English texts: linguistic form and practices of literacy. In: Machan, T. W. (ed.) Imagining Medieval English: Language Structures and Theories, 500–1500. Series: Cambridge studies in medieval literature (95). Cambridge University Press, pp. 34-53. ISBN 9781107058590

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Abstract

The late, great paleographer Malcolm Parkes used to opine that 'the greatest mistake a paleographer makes is to forget the nature of the text being copied'. The axiom is a powerful one that has relevance not simply for the sub-discipline of paleography but also for the wider philological enterprise of which (I would argue) paleography is part. In this paper, I examine a small group of texts -- Lawman's Brut, Ancrene Riwle and Beowulf -- and demonstrate how a focus on the formal characteristics of these texts - their spelling, their punctuation (if any), their paleographical characteristics and their layout -- can be related intimately to their textual function. The discussion articulates with some new directions for philology at the current time, most notably with reference to the burgeoning discipline of historical pragmatics.

Item Type:Book Sections
Status:Published
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor Jeremy
Authors: Smith, J.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISBN:9781107058590
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Cambridge University Press
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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